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Ben Mezrich Education. (2011) Ben Mezrich ('Sex on the Moon The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History.')




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Nasa 12, Boston 8, Us 7, Fbi 7, Eduardo 5, Thad Roberts 5, Mark Zuckerberg 5, Dubai 5, South Carolina 3, Kevin 3, Texas 3, Ben Mezrich 3, Aaron 3, John Grisham 3, Johnson 2, Sean Parker 2, Japan 2, Brooklyn 2, New York 2, Houston 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Ben Mezrich  Education.  (2011) Ben Mezrich ('Sex on the  
   Moon The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in...  

    July 24, 2011
    7:00 - 8:00pm EDT  

came in and out and so forth. i started this book, i wrote it without smoking but occasionally "thoughts without cigarettes" is an ironic title now. you come out with stress and or that. >> a very interesting title. certainly one that i hope everyone remembers and let us ..
>> is very, very special. it's also special to have being
like ben mezrich here tonight. i talked to my writers friends. he's like, that ben, he gets all of the great stories i want to right. he's now the author of 12 book, though he said no one read his first six. which i don't the bring. you know him for the book "bringing down the house" which was made into a movie with kevin spacey, "21." and the accidental billionaires, "the social network." and now this book called "sex on the moon." it's fantastic, not the least of which it's centered here in texas. so many of the places from the johnson space center to a night out on the rock in galveston. please welcome to the stage ben mezrich.
>> so am i wrong that when i heard that the title of the book was "sex on the moon" i thought that was a drink that the college kids have at south padre. >> it does sound like a drink, right? my wife came up with the title. so i was not the dirty mind behind the title. but the main character did spread moon rocks on a bed and had sex with his girlfriend on the moon. so that's, you know, i'm afraid it's getting caught in a spam filter. >> right. the e-mails go out. >> but yeah. >> as i was reading it, i kept thinking, you know, sort of the processes the title and where did it come from. you get to a moment later, it becomes evident as to why the book is called that. >> right. >> very quick, because i'm guessing many people haven't had the chance to read it. you don't want to give away. >> right. i tend to give away too much. tell us about that'd -- thad and
what he did. he is the most complex individual that you have written about. take that mark zuckerberg. >> yeah, right. >> tell us about him and what mainly attracted you to tell his story. >> well, thad roberts basically came from a heart background, a very fundamentally mormon family. he was kicked out of his house when he was 18 to admitted to premarital sex. then he decided he wanted to be an astronaut. he changed his whole life and became james bond, he majored in geeologily, and spoke five changes. he got into nasa johnson space center. it's a co-op program for college kids. it's a feeder. he was achieving his dream. he was a stand out, big star, he came became the social leader of all of the co-op and interns.
then he fell in love with young intern. we have all done something sometime out of love. he stole a 600 pound safe full of moon rocks from his professors office. as i said, spread them on the bed, had sex with his girlfriend, and try it had sell them over the internet to a belgium jim dealer, axel zimmerman. he's never been out, collecting rocks and trades them every monday night in the huge center where all of the guys in antwerp trade rocks. his hobby is a stick on a wooden bird and 100 foot pole and all of the men shoot at it with cross bows. this is the real sport. he seeing the add on the internet, i've got moon rocks for sale. he is the big believer in right and wrong. he called the fbi, he e-mailed
the fbi. it became the big sting operation. thad roberts was taken down -- i always give it away. you know he got arrested. right. right. >> don't cross that line. >> right. >> you obviously have come off of enormous success with not only the books, but also the fact they then are converted to movies, which helps in terms of that notoriety. >> they always change the titles. "sex on the moon" is the first one they have to keep. >> you locked in on that one. >> and certainly, you had said you were working on this at the time that the social network was being filmed. there was some kind of overlap. at this point, i've always thought that in the way that actors and actresses are only as good as the roles they choose. writers are only as good as the stories that they pick. what was it that -- i mean all of that that you just explained notwithstanding, of all of the stories that you could have told, what was it that attracted you to this particular topic? >> you know what, for me, the stories come to me.
i don't look for them. ever since "bringing down the house." i get 20 or 30 e-mails. every college kid that does something crazy will call me. i always wanted to write about nasa. i think it's amazing. when you think of nasa, you think of the '60s. tom hanks in a silver capsule. >> right. >> this let me get inside nasa today. thad roberts out of the blue contacted me. he had just gotten out of prison. he was on probation. he was weird. i never meant someone who had spent a decade in prison before. i arraigned to meet him in the hotel will be by. he was the nicest, most charismatic, look gooded smart guy that did something stupid. >> the nightest -- nicest fella. >> right. no one had written. one article in the "l. a. times" maybe in texas there was more. i hadn't seen anything. i couldn't believe it. the first thing that i did was i
filed freedom of information act with the fbi to get the fbi file. which is thousands of pages. when the fbi agents took him down, they were wearing wires. i got the transcript of the wires. the first things, if you are wearing a wire, i'm screwed. that's on tape. so it was wild. it was about a year-long interviewing everybody that i could. >> i see. and so there's one section in the book which i think is just great too. where there's the correspondence, roy orbson. >> right. it's a play on words. he was excited that i was writing this book. he actually, nasa gave him as a gift for solving the moon rock, they named an asteroid after him.
there's an immerman asteroid floating around the sun. everything in the book is reprinted. a lot of the dialogue is actually, you know, straight from the transcripts and everything. you know. i do get attacked a lot in the press for my style. which is a very kind of dramatic, sinmatic way of telling a nonfiction story. >> you brought that up. that's what i wanted to visit. that came down a lot in bringing down the house. i wonder if you can talk about the technique that you employ. your controversial technique. nothing sells book. how you employ that and why. i have to say in the "new york times" that just came out yesterday. >> she hate me. >> she hated me. he said it. that's part of it. that was the hangover from that. tell me -- >> you know, it's always -- it's been like this in my entire career. i'm a cinematic thinking.
this is the kind of stuff that i like to read. it's a form of new journalism, i guess, i get all of the information. i interview just about everybody. i get thousands of pages of court documents, all of the fbi stuff, and i sit down and i tell the story in a very visual way. and there are going to be journalist who do in the like it. janet is one of those. you know, i don't necessarily write for janet, i write for me and the people who like this kind of book. the reality is it's a true story. it's as true as any other thing on the nonfiction list. you see a biography of cleopatra; right? nobody knows anything about cleopatra. you see a biography of abraham lincoln, and obama's biography has invented characters. it's a process. you know, you have to take the facts, and then write it in a certain way. i choose to write it in a very cinematic way. for instance, i'll interview thad roberts, i'll interview the
other kid that was there, this gordon, i'll interview max immerman, i know there was a conversation that took place ten years ago. i know what was said. i don't know the exact words. one journalist might say they talked about moon rocks. to me that's a boring way. i know they talked about moon rocks. i know what they did. i describe what they did. there are some journalist who love it, and some journalist who don't. you know, it'll be a controversy forever in terms of certain journalist will never like it. with the social network and accidental billionaires, mark zuckerberg came out and said it's not true. it's not true. he called me the jacky collins of silicon valley. i love that. it's great. he never pointed out anything that wasn't true. he never said this isn't true and this isn't true. he just said the whole thing isn't true. then he said he didn't read the book. i don't know where you go with
that. the reality is it is a very true story. he laid the -- you know, he meant to vice president -- meant to have sex on moon rocks. spread them on the bed and wanted it to be like sex on the moon. janet said he put them under the mattress. that's not true. he did this on purpose. i use the facts and tell it in my style. some people like it, some don't. >> you are saying some journalist don't like it. are you a journalist or author? >> you know, i never saw myself as a journalist. i always saw myself in the entertainment business. i only stumbled into true storied. i always hated nonfiction. i grew up watching really bad television. i was a fan of pop culture and movies. and then i met these imt kids in a bar. and i was hanging out in a bar in boston, called cross roads, it's an m.i.t. dive bar.
if you can imagine an m.i.t. dive bar, it's a bunch of geeky guys -- sorry. i'm a geeky guy too. these guy had the money in $100. in boston, you never see $100. i don't know in dallas. you probably do see them. >> thousands of them. >> that's right. oil; right? in boston, you never see them. it's all college kids. i couldn't figure out why. i went over to the main guys house. in his laundry was $250,000 in banded stacks of $100. i thought you got to be a drug dealer. he one. and the next day we flew to vegas and it was the m.i.t. blackjack team. i joined the team and said i want to write this story. this was my first true story. i fell into nonfiction, but i wrote it like a thriller. it wasn't this i'm going to sit down and write nonfiction in this way. i was writing fiction and ran into a true story. that's been the way accidental
billionaires, same thing. sitting at home. i get an e-mail, 2:00 and it's a harvard senior. he's actually from houston. he said my best friend co-founded facebook and no one has ever heard of him. i go out for a drink. always involving drinking. in walks eduardo. he's angry, furious, mark zuckerberg screwed him. he wanted to tell his story. i was in another story. it's been the weird stumbling. >> there's an an experience for you in terms for example "bringing down the house" you were part of that culture. and that's what brought you. >> yes. >> i think that most -- i want to stay with this for a minute. it's interesting what readers expect as to how it's marketed and what's it billed as. i think we have all the classic notion of the willing suspicious. your point with cleopatra or abraham lincoln is true. it is true in "bringing down the
house." there were scenes helped created to make it move. there was claims by period who were not on -- who said that there was -- >> but the reality is book played close to what happened. there is a scene, you know, when people talked about when they used the strippers to change in the chips. i was told that by two members that were there. i definitely interviewed strippers. you can probably discount their story; right? you can only go so far in terms of how many interviews that you do and whether or not you believe it happened. all journalist make choices. so, you know, it is what it is. i think with accidental billionaires, of course, it's much more heavily vetted. aaron running the screen play "the social network." there were teams of lawyers and everybody is involved.
it's pretty accurate. i would "the social network" was the wink of an eye. another thing you couldn't invent. 6'5" olympic rowers you really can't tell. tyler is like you look at us and think we must be the bad guys. if there were an '80s movie, we'd be dressed as skeletons. ralph called. he was like i love that line. the original karate kid. there's a lot of different sources of what happened. >> we've touched on a couple of things. one you've talked about the quality of your writing. i want to hold that a little bit. i think they'll be interested to know the sort of jump that you have made from sitting at your
desk by yourself, pounding out these books and the transition to the biggest screen. that is -- that's an experience in its own. let me hold on that and say one the things we've seen particularly in the last three books is your sort of drawn type of character that it seems to me. young and smart and pushing the envelope of whatever it is they are doing. is that fair? >> young, geeky, you know, it's all been guys so far. that's not by choice. that's just who calls me. >> what is it about that world that appeals to you? >> i think i live through them. i was a geeky guy. still pretty much am. and the idea that you could go from that to a rock star as mark zuckerberg sitting alone in a room, suddenly a billionaire, or m.i.t. living the life in vegas. thad roberts who brent nothing to almost being an astronaut to stealing moon rocks.
>> that is interesting. you make a point. one, as a result of his upbringing, him coming to houston and not know. he was determined to be reinvent himself. he wanted to be the guy as people recognize as the social leader and the person who was coming up with all of the not exactly pranks but who could get into the space shuttle simulator and push the bounds. >> obviously, that does help drive the narrative in terms of building up to that climax. >> absolutely. this is a kid who needed everyone to love him. he was on cbs "sunday morning." i needed people to love me. there's no bigger need than that. he didn't have the love growing up. that's what he did. yeah, i think there is that transformation is what i like to write about. >> you were saying that, you know, you obviously met with eduardo and the winklevoss twins. not mark. here it's flipped.
thad is your main source. how is that different? where there moments that his story began to seem too fantastic. were you able to check certain things he has said? there are some moments in here that kind of stretch the bounds. how do you go about vetting whether or not what he is telling you is correct or spinning you a tale >> >> mark zuckerberg, i spent a year trying to talk to him. he knew i was talking with eduardo. he was very nice. in the end, no, no, no. thad wanted to tell his story. i have hundreds of hours of him on tape. in the beginning, he wasn't telling me the truth. it was a matter of once i had all of the fbi files. i could confront him. that's not what happened according to the fbi and according to the court transcripts and the other people that were there. then he would back off and wait also bit. then he would say okay, this is
what happened. there is that aspect of it. if i'm a journalist, that's the main form of my journalism is seeing where people are lying to me. it was -- in the end he was very open and honest. here's the deal, especially with my books, they, picked apart by people like janet. you need to tell the truth. he did. in the end, he did. he was very open and honest with me. you know what, there is that thing where i did start to like him a lot. as a writer, that's where things get tricky. if someone is extremely likable, what he did is pretty bad. my dad who an engineer and scientist, he read the book. i hate this guy. he stole our national treasure. men gave their lives to get moon rocks. he stole it for, you know, petty reasons. rights. there is that. when you look at it objectively, yeah, that's horrible. but at the same time, you are sitting with the kid, he's tearing up. he screwed up his life because
he just, you know, thought it would be cool. and it's hard not to feel bad for him. and then start to like him. i'll tell you anybody here who met thad roberts would love him. he's a very lovable guy. who just did a bad thing. so for the author, that maybe my main problem. i get very close to my subjects. because i want to be a part of it. so, yeah, i mean i guess there is that. >> i think he does come across very sympathetic. i think you know where this is headed. as he is coming through these other things, he's establishing himself at nasa. you see he's talented, working hard, trying to improve himself. there is a question in the interview with cbs "sunday morning" program that he doesn't exactly know why he did what he did now that he looks back on it. that's a puzzling aspect. you do get the sense that part of his personality that made him
great also led him to derail and go down the other path. >> absolutely. this was a kid who would do anything and then decided to do this. so, you know, -- yeah. yeah. >> you talked about writing in a cinematic way. you refer to that a couple of times already in our conversation. tell me when you are sitting down to write the books, are you already thinking of what may happen in the movies. you are already thinking -- >> i'm 100% that way. >> when did you start doing that? >> i started with my first book which none of you read called threshold. i've always been a cinematic writer. then with bringing down the house, when it became a movie, suddenly ken spacey became my first reader. kevin is one the first people, kevin and dana who are his business partner. i know when i sit down that, you know, this could be a movie. i am picturing -- i'm knottiering justin timberlake
running around nasa. i am picturing a visual, not that i don't think he'd be great. which he would. i'm picturing a visual setting, i'm picturing it in that way. because i think there's a real synergy now. books become movies more and more frequently, i feel. at least i've been fortunate if that respect. this one we sold to the same people who are making the social network. same producers and spacey and rueden. it's going to be a movie. yeah, i do think that way. movies are much more fun. for me when i sit down in my cold, dark room in boston for three months of solid loneliness, you have to be picturing a big screen in your head. >> would you rather be reading a book or watching a movie? >> reading a book. i love reading. i'm sad in a way that i like the kindle. and that it is a great device. because books are so wonder and
i read all the time. and i watch a lot of tv, and i watch a lot of movies and all forms of entertainment. books are great. i grew up with books. i wish they could last forever. >> the hollywood aspect has been good to you. you went to the golden globe says kevin spacey's plus one. >> it was a weird experience. because normally someone like me would not be sitting near celebrities because i write books. in hollywood, that means you are down there. sort of up there. but my table was kevin and nicole kidman and keith urban, and megan fox and brian austin greene and scarlet johansson and bruce willis. i will to go to the bathroom. you only get three minutes breaks. i run into the bathroom and run into brad pitt and angelina jolie. wow. you guys really are good
looking. i go around them and get to the bathroom. but it was a wild experience. i mean i really see myself as just this guy from boston. i'm not -- you know, i'm always kind of wondering around the corners. it was just a wild, wild experience. >> tell us about how involved you are in the production and the actual creative process behind the film. obviously, aaron took -- adapted the book. >> when you get a guy, you do whatever you say. >> i've had in writers that i've talked with other the years and writers that i know who have had books made into films. there is one school of thought it's mine, mine alone, and i'm going to protect it. john grisham is famous for saying once it's a movie, i don't care. it's not mine. how will your creative involvement be for "sex on the moon"? >> aaron came out to boston.
that was a strange situation. i was literally handing him chapters. that was a cool thing. once they are onset, the director is god. he runs the set. david fincher was god, god, god. you just sort of -- the set really runs and you are just there. my involvement is, you know, i'm there and if they have any questions. but you have no control. once you kind of sell the book. they ask you things, and you do have input. certainly with a story like this, i'll be involved in terms of that. you know, it is kind of like what john grisham says, once you sell it, it is theirs. it's your book, their movie. it's hard, you know, to say that. but at the same time, when i've been very lucky. i loved "21." i thought it was great, fun movie. i love "the social network." so far it's been great. you know, you never know what's going to happen. >> would you ever just write a jean play? >> i've done a couple of screen
plays. i did a draft, "ugly americans" which hasn't been made. it's a different format. for me, the books are my main bread and butter. sooner or later. they have to want me too. i spent a long time as a struggling writer. now i don't want to be a struggling screen writer and start over. and the truth is, they don't necessarily want you to adapt your own work for whatever reason. it's not normally the first thing they go to. you know, we'll see. we'll see. >> who should play thad? >> yeah, i get asked that a lot. that's going to be up to the director and producers. it's got to be a good looking guy who could be both athletic and a mountain climbing guy and a geek. it's kind of challenging. you can't -- i've heard names like shila, and rob hanson if he bulked up. there are a lot of young guys that could pull it off. it's a real, juicy role for a
guy. >> right. let's talk about a little bit about the other aspect of the book business which i think is also typically interesting to folks. you are now on a whirl wind promotional tour in the flight in the city. how does that square again with the writer that we always think of being courted off from the rest of the world as he's trying to get that last chapter right. now to be dropped in the world of the media push? >> it's culture shock. you spent half of your year locked in a room. i like the entertainment. it's weird having schedules. normally, you don't care what time it is. you write and get deep into whatever the project is and you have a lot of control over your life. when you are on a tour, you have no control. it's also wonderful. i will say my tours have changed dramatically. this is amazing. i remember my first book tour, my first stop was something called tunnel radio. which is a radio that only airs
in the tunnel in boston. so it literally an am station in 100 yards of a tunnel. it was a traffic station that someone got the idea of putting authors on. so first of all, no one wants to hear you; right? they are trying to get the traffic report. then my second stop was in massachusetts, it was a public access television station. and i had written a book called "threshold" it was a medical thriller. somewhere in the book, i mentioned in the future there may not be dwarfs, because we will be able to genetically choose our children. it was a little sentence. i show up and there's two chairs like this. in one chair is a dwarf. and it was my second publicity stop of my life. and i sit down and i start to think, wait a minute, this isn't good. and it was a debate. and i was like i didn't say there shouldn't be dwarfs.
i said there may not be. he was like you mean people won't want to choose? it became this whole -- but then there was no budget. and so after the interview ended, we go outside and the dwarf had to give me a ride home. so i don't know. it was a strange day. >> your next book, the lead character was, in fact, dwarf; right? >> listen, i'm a big fan. i watch game of thrones. i love he's awesome. >> speaking of projects, you had said you don't have -- you don't have your next one lined up right now. obviously, you are going to enjoy this. and continue with the media push. how will you begin to decide. what will you be look for the for the next project? >> you know, i look through all of these ideas and they come in. 99% of them are really bad. you know, it's like every, you
know, person that commits a crime now fits any of the e-mails. but, you know, i need that sort of young kid, really smart, who's not a bad person who's kind of in the gray area between right and wrong. this is the first heist that i've written. this is the first person that committed a crime. and then, you know, there has to be the elements, the betrayal and sex and all of those kind of things that janet doesn't like. then there has to be, you know, some level of fun for me. so it has to be in a place where i want to go. because you have to spend six months to a year doing it. for me, going to vegas, awesome. i wouldn't go somewhere that would be horrible? so, yeah, those are kind of the things that i look for. >> the next project, you are going to be looking for that type of character and perhaps that type of story. >> i was thinking, you know what would be cool, prince harry. i don't want to write william. but harry has a story; right?
you know he has a story. if anybody knows him. >> e-mail address. strike up a conversation. >> no, i don't know. i don't know what's next. i just wait and see. >> right. right. what are you -- what are you reading? what are you doing when you are not working on the books and as you say just all the time that you are spending with the research? what are you reading and what writers inspire you? >> well, right now, "game of thrones" is amazing. those books are -- >> you mean that because of the hbo? >> you know, i had started one before it. then i watched it and i was like this is great. now i'm reading them all. and those books are the reason that kindle is great. carrying those books around is serious business. but, you know, those are great. i read a lot of what comes out. so, you know, i read sebastian younger. he will go to afghanistan and embed himself. while i'm embedded in vegas, he's in afghanistan. good for him. what else? i read it all that comes out.
everything. i love "the hunger games." which is odd. it was really good. >> right. do you see yourself more comfortable now as opposed to other authors? >> my friends aren't -- i have a lot of writing friends. overall, you know, i don't know that many screen writers. i don't live in l.a. were they are all there. yeah, you know, i -- i don't have a lot of close friends who are writers. i have a couple. guy named matthew pearl, he's a good friend of mine. a guy named joe who has a book out. wonderful gook. he's great. a few other local writers. but yeah, there's not -- you know, i don't -- you know, we don't sit around in turtle necks and drink coffee. not that speed. yeah. but -- yeah. >> we're starting to come up on the time. as we say, ben is going to be doing a book signing after this. there are other events, obviously with late nights.
i want to ask you just a couple more questions. what we would really like for the audience to do, if you have a question, please come on down to one the standing mics at the front. we'll take you in order for 15 minutes or so, and wrap up the evening at that point. if you have questions, you might begin to think of those. let's continue more and turn it over to audience. how would you describe how your writing has changed? you made the joke that nobody had read the first six. you told me you graduated from harvard, do you lock yourself away? how do you feel matured as a writer and better as a writer than you are now? how did you learn the craft. >> dark stories that take place in bars in new york city. i got published, i got 190
rejection slips, i was rejected by everyone in new york. and then i read john grisham and then i wrote a thriller. my first six books were thrillers. they were trashy. they were fun. medical thrillers, evil scientist. one of them was a tv movie called "fatal error." i hope you didn't. i apologize. it was a start on junior, the underwear model. he plays a surgeon in this show. he's great. but there's a scene where -- i was watching with my dad who is a doctor now. he leans over the patients chest and goes, we've got a subdermal hematoma. he says you know that's in the head; right? i think i've gotten a lot better than that. you know, i think my style is improving. i feel strongly that "sex on the moon" is my best. "bringing down the house" for me
was a transitional moment. i realized that i could write a true story. and that book, i wrote in six weeks in vegas. literally i stayed in a different hotel suite each night. publishers hate it when you wrote it that quickly. the reality was it was a crazy, i was living it and writing it. it was nuts. that became the submersion. i go inside and live the story. i will say that anybody out there that wants to be a writer, those days of rejection are kind of the most noble and romantic time in your life. look forward to the rejection. i, being a geeky guy, had much rejection up until that point with women. then it became books. you know, i would put them on the walls. each one would become the thing that i have to beat. when i got into public, every person that i worked with, i had a rejection letter.
which was cool. we love your stuff. i was like what about this? you didn't love this. right? so, you know, you learn from the rejection. and there's this huge wall in publishing. it's impossible to get over this wall. you know it's a tough business. but it's that climb over the wall, i think, that makes you better. and i feel like now, you know, i'm a very different writer than i was in the beginning. >> you say this is your best work, your best effort, what is it about? >> i said most the geeky guys that i wrote about before were unable to get laid. this is the first character in which falling in love became his problem. and it was his down fall. it's new to right a romance. the love letters in prison. the access that i had.
even when i was with the m.i.t. kids, there was different. this was a kid laying it off and saying this is my life. i screwed up. there's more in it than anything i've written about before. during writing the book i had a kid. a lot of you know, changing your life in a dramatic way. and i think that is infused in it to me. you are not sleeping. you are also dealing with, you know, massive -- you are sort of understanding things differently. i tried to get inside this kid's head more and more. >> i can't do any better than that. >> thank you. i appreciate it. >> the book obviously is "sex on the moon." we'll do questions for about 15 minutes. then there will be a book signing immediately afterwards. so please if you have questions, come down and we have standing mics at the front. and we'll call on you. and fire away. yes, ma'am? >> you were asked what books you
read now. i'm curious to book what books you liked and read as you were growing? >> my parents had a rule, we had to read two books before you could watch tv. that seems draconian. i was obsessed with television. i was a speed reader. any book counted. science. then i graduated to hemmingway. i kept rereading it. i'd go through periods of different types of book. i've read every genere. i was reading kansas bushnel for one year. i shift from thing to thing. i don't limit myself. i think growing up, mostly science fiction. >> when you are -- since the
"accidental billionaires" you didn't interview mark zuckerberg and just interviewed the people that were mad at him. >> i feel in the book, it's pretty clear a lot of it is from eduardo. the movie is more mark. i also had sean parker who was on the other side. sean and i also had a lot of people that knew mark extremely well. high school to college to people that work at facebook. even though a sent along a e-mail not to speak to me, that made people want to talk to me. there was a lot of sources. it would have been great if mark had talked to me. it would have been wonder. no question. i don't think there's any way to look at the book or movie and say it's not true. i think the people that were there, other than mark, say that's what happened. so, you know, yes. eduardo definitely had an accident to grind. winklevoss, as you see them on
tv, they had an accident to grind. sean parker was a good source, wonderful person. i think timberlake caught him perfectly. sean is looking more and more like justin timberlake now. that's positive. you do have to take that into account. i feel like you can tell which scenes are from eduardo and which aren't. it was one the issues, yeah. >> yes, sir. >> other than "sex on the moon" there maybe -- which of the books have you written are your favorites? not to write. >> not as many people read. "ugly americans"? >> it was a true story about a kid from new jersey. he played football, never been out of new jersey, gets a phone call, he's a princeton university college football player. gets a call, invites him to japan. he packs the duffel bag, ends up
working for a guy named nick who some of you might remember to bankrupt the entire by embedding all of the assets on the stock market. the book becomes the hot shot, falling in love with a daughter, and makes a single deal that makes $500 million in five minutes. it all takes place in japan and this sort of sex under ground in japan. it's a story about expass living large in asia. i thought it was fun. it sold well on wall street. every guy on wall street had a copy. outside of wall street, it didn't catch. we've worked on the movie for a while. spacey and dana are involved. i sold it to numerous studios. eventually, hopefully it will get made. bringing down the house is for me, if you want to know what i write, it's what i write. but, you know, between those
three, really. >> go ahead, please. >> i've got two questions. one is thanks for coming, by the way. >> this is fun. thank you. >> good. i'm curious in your latest book, what was the subject's incentive for wanting to talk to you and have his story written? and i'm also curious about the label of nonfiction. have you thought about putting it out and avoiding the controversy? >> first of all, it's the publishers decision. publishers, lawyers, and they say this is true. that on one hand. i feel strongly. it's clearly nonfiction. i would say you go through chapter by chapter in any one of my books. every scene can be documented both in court documents and in interviews. it's written stylistically in a way that reads like a thrillers. there's no way to call it fiction. because everything in the scene happened. you know, obviously it's always
going to be a controversy. there will always been journalist who are searching out james frye; right? that's the whole thing. in the opening of my book, i say exactly what i'm going to do. there's no scandal. because they want scandal. they come and said you recreate dialogue. yeah, it says on page one. but it's not made up. it's recreated from the people who were there. i don't have a problem with it. i love talking about it. they expect me to shy away or run away from oprah. i'm happy to talk about it. i think it's a valid form. goes back to tom wolf and beyond that. there's plenty of writers, you know. and the designation is really up to the publishers. but i think it's very clearly nonfiction. but -- and then the second question was about thad. why did he come to me? that's a great question. obviously he saw himself as a
movie character. when he did the crime that james bond theme song was going through his head. and so he wants to be famous or infamous. which is tricky. obviously. but at the same time, he also feels like he's spent an enormous amount of his life in prison. seven and a half years, murders get seven and a half. he had the moon rocks for a week. he used them, no question about that. but he felt like he had served so much time that telling his story was the right thing to do. it's not that he proud he did it, but at the same time, he feels like he did this crazy thing. there's no reason why he shouldn't tell people. you know, does he feel bad about it? yes. is he ashamed of himself? i don't know. people come to me because they want to get famous. but also they look at it like the m.i.t. kids, the sports career that nobody knows about. they want people to know about
it. so, yeah, there is that. but yeah. >> yes, sir. >> hi. i thought one of your best books was "rigged." and you got chance to spend time in dubai. >> "rigged" takes place in dubai. one foot in the world of harvard, and one foot in from the tough streets of brooklyn. he worked at the merck exchange in new york, trading oil. then he went to dubai and set up the dubai merck basically. he set up the oil trading world in dubai at the time. it's a crazy story. takes place all over the world in dubai. very short trip for me there. in and out. you know, you guys like the hot weather. i don't know. for me, it's a little weak. but it's -- it's a wild story. the whole world of oil which i
knew nothing about. i heard about the story. he invited me to ring the bell. i went down there to ring the bell. i looked out on the incredible sea of tough guys from brooklyn, pushing and shoving and throwing tickets at each other. there was one clerk that was a small guy. so he hired a bunch of people behind him who's entire job was just to hold him into the training floor. i was like this is so cool. that's what made me write "rigged" we're working on the movie as well as with summit. we'll see if it gets going. yes, ma'am? >> i just wanted to actually read something funny to you based on the conversation about recreate dialogue. >> sure. >> this is tonight's program. mezrich poured over thousands of pages of court records and has interviewed most of the participate in the crime to reject the ocean-11-style heist, a story of genius, love, and
duplicity. already the novel has been snatched up by hollywood to create a film. >> yeah. that happens. people use novel interchangeable. i hope that's not my fault. i think, you know, it will always be a controversy in my career. most people are coming around to this form of new nonfiction. you know what funny, when i tour in england and europe, they have no problem with it. there's not even a discussion. they are like why are american journalist so upset with your writing. i don't know what to tell them. but it's -- it seems to be more controversial at at "the new yok times" than it is anywhere else. >> i wanted to ask you for your next big project when you are looking for that story, do you prefer to write about -- do a project. write about a story that's unfolding like bringing down the
house. >> that would be ideal. >> or to be more retrospective. >> i love the idea of getting inside a story when it's happening. but it's hard. at that point, you don't know where it's going to end and spend years chasing. that would be the ideal as a story where you are in the think of it as it's happening. both this and "accidental billionaires." that was dint. try to recreate it yourself. but yeah. yeah. i would love it if it were actually happening. you have to know the ending. that's where it gets hard. >> any other questions? >> yes, ma'am. please. >> can you share with us what -- i hope i have pronounced this right thad is doing now. >> he got out of prison and went back to the university of utah to get his phd. he still wants to go to space. that's his dream.
he says maybe in the private sec to be. -- sector. he's a smart guy. he's very spontaneous. maybe he needs to control himself. but, you know, i hope the best for him. i hope he, you know, served his time. he paid his dues. if he's smart, he will study and he's brilliant and he'll get his phd and move on that way. he's a good kid who did a bad thing. >> how has he responded to the book? >> he liked most of it. he didn't like all of it. he didn't like axel or the idea that the guy was rewarded for taking him down. he didn't like some of the ways he's described as being delusional and the fantasy aspect. he said it was hard to see yourself from someone else's eyes. so he liked a lot of it. i think he felt i captured living and being at nasa and all of that stuff in the beginning very well. overall, he liked it. there were things he didn't
like. >> any other questions? >> yes, sir. please. >> i'm curious. you said you had a fascination with nasa. if you were in the country, you think think the program is over because he shut it down. what did you find out? >> well, you know, i think it's all about mars. i think that's the next step. even though, obviously, when you think about it, we're going to spend billions and billions of dollars. at the same time, we spend billions of dollars trying to do all sorts of things. why not do something incredible? when you think back to the moon landing, there was no point to that; right? but it was incredible. it changes our lives, it changed our world. it was wonderful. i feel like we should do that again. i would love to see all of this money put into getting to mars. that would be my if dream. it's sad the space shuttle is ending. it's sad to see these things
that they advanced the human species just by existing, i feel. i feel like the race to mars would advance us in ways that we can't tell yet. that's my pronasa speech. i hope that we fund a mission to mars. >> what is nasa's response? >> they weren't happy i was writing the book. they were embarrassed, this was a guy from the inside. he stole a 600 pound safe off of their campus. they weren't thrilled. they didn't want me to make him into a hero. but i feel like they haven't responded since the book has come out. when people there read the book, they are going to love it. i think it makes nasa look cool and hopefully get people to want to be involved. i thought facebook would like "the social network." they did come around towards the end. it's not a hit job on nasa. >> let's do one last question. then we'll call it an evening. yes, ma'am. in the middle. >> what happened to the girl?
any fallout with her? >> thad did the crime with him and another girl. he took the fall. he and -- him and this other guy that was involved finding the internet, they went to jail. the girls did not go to jail. they got probation. she never spoke to him again. they had known each other three weeks. it was the quick love. when she was in the courtroom and the -- i think it's the judge or prosecutor asked her, you knew this kid for three weeks. why would you do this? i'm still trying to figure it out. it was one of those things. they have moved on. they were not happy that i wrote the book. i talked to the main character. she asked me to change her name. she wanted nothing to do with it. i think she's in texas. he didn't want to be involved. so yeah. listen. thank you so much. >> thank you for being here. thank you to them.
>> this is great. >> for more on author ben mezrich and his work, visit ben >> susannah ashton, how did you select the narrative that you included in your edited work? >> we were looking, my research team and i, we were looking for out of print narratives, narratives which weren't largely known as all. and also narratives which might be known, but known as south carolinaian. but for example, boston kings is one the 18th century slaves. he's known in british abolitionist circles and transatlantic connections. he was from south carolina and defected to british line. then went to canada, to nova
scotcia and africa. people like that. we had a collection of seven people that weren't well known, or known at other contacts. for the first time ever, we could bring them back into print and put them together to see the connections between more coherent narrative of what the story of south carolina slavery was like. >> what were the major scened included in the recollection? >> well, there were both small and big themes. there was small patterns. three of the seven people were child's jockeys. two of the seven individuals actually were slaves to confederate forces in fort sumter and carolinas. they were not confederates, but slaves to the confederate forces. there were odd little connections. but the biggest connection is even the people that left south carolina and were glad to have escaped or survived slavery and otherwise left the states, all
rode their lives as south carolinaians, all firmly identify themselves as have a relationship to where they are from. but they weren't going to let someone take that away from them. they would not identify themselves as africans with one exception, perhaps of boston king who ended up going back to africa. the rest of them, they distinctly wanted to claim themselves as part of the history. even though they may have left the state. i think that was the most wonderful theme that we found from the 18 to early 20th century of the people's memoirs. >> which story resonates the most with you? >> they -- a number of them speak to me in different ways. one the 18th century, it is very short, mysterious, and odd document. it was written by her and dictated as access. we don't know the details, but we know she's playing the violin and leading people into sin. when i read that, i said i want
to know her. who was she? what was she about? she doesn't fit your normal slave narrative story. what happened to her. another the 20th century writer, he wrote the memoir. old man around 1913. he had been a child a slave. and that meant he had an edge to him. and he wrote, i think, one of his famous lines said something. there are many people who will talk to the better side of slavery and how you can see it was good. the only good about it was the emancipation proclamation. he had an edge. that is the sentiment. they all spoke to me with different ways in different voices. >> what do you hope readerring will learn from this book? >> i hope they learn to get rid of their expectations, i think. the voices were hard. for example, the 18th century
narrative, these are two individuals who spoke about slavery, indeed, about their lives as conscribed under slavery. they also define their lives as slaves. their memoirs are about religious wakening and the freedom that they found through their spiritual wakening. and that is -- that doesn't fit when you think a slave narrative should be about; right? yet i respect that turn and learn from their tone. it's a man that learns to escape. they depict a lot of really violent and stressing scenes. but ones that are really -- they are witnesses. they are testimony of witnessing. and i hope readers to those really come away with the respect for the political and personal goals they are trying to tell us. individuals and their own life and also in the community, the
voices that aren't allowed to speak. those are the two terrifying narratives, andrew jackson and another one is anonymous. we don't know his name. he was a fugitive, still running from bounty hunters when the story was published. then the last three, although samuel had an edge. the other two, jacob and irving were much more complicated narratives. because i wouldn't say they had good things to say about slavery, but they weren't testimony to violence. :